Attorneys demand full investigation after man convicted of murder dies of apparent overdose

The defense attorneys for James Ray say that it appears that he died of a drug overdose on Sunday.

Matt Trapani and Chris Keating

Jun 19, 2023, 5:27 PM

Updated 360 days ago

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The attorneys for a former Montclair attorney convicted last month of killing his girlfriend are demanding a full investigation into how he died.
The defense attorneys for James Ray say that it appears that he died of a drug overdose on Sunday.
The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office says that Ray was found unresponsive in his jail cell. He was taken to University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The prosecutor’s office wrote in a statement, "We have confirmed that James Ray has died, though the cause and manner are not known. An autopsy is pending, and our Professional Standards Bureau is conducting the investigation."
Defense attorneys Thomas Ashley and Brook Barnett say that they have questions and want a full investigation.
“If there’s an overdose there needs to be an investigation because it's ridiculous that someone in jail can overdose on drugs,” Ashely says.
“As the end of the day, another human being had died in the Essex County Jail where someone is supposed to be protected,” says Barnett.
Ray was convicted on May 12 of killing his girlfriend, Angela Bledsoe. The verdict was returned in just three hours, following a six-week trial.
Ray shot Bledsoe three times in October 2018. After shooting her, Ray dropped off their young daughter with his brother and fled for Cuba where he was eventually arrested.
He tried to claim self-defense, but the jury did not buy it and convicted him of murder.
Ray was set to be sentenced on June 29 and faced at least 30 years in prison. His attorneys say that they do not believe the overdose to be intentional.
"Certainly, the way he reacted to the verdict would never give us any indication that he would take his own life,” Ashley says.
The attorneys have asked that anything found in Ray’s jail cell be preserved as evidence. They'd also like to see any video of Ray that may exist before he was found so that they can determine how he died. 
Ray leaves behind three children.


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